Loveland's Independent News Source
Merchants Fear South Catalyst Project To
Become 'Crime Catalyst' for Downtown
Loveland - March 11, 2016

Since June of 2013 the City of Loveland has been negotiating on and off with Larimer County to
consolidate services into a new building in Loveland's downtown.  Last August
reported on the breakdown of those negotiations after the developer abandoned the city's failed "South
Catalyst" project and county staff recommended they halt negotiations due to
"Excessive timeline delays by
the City of Loveland including site acquisitions, changing building requests, lack of a developer...
uncertainty of the project."  

At one point in their negotiations, County officials placed survey sticks with small flags on a county owned
parcel of land near the Loveland Police Department at 810 E. 10th street indicating the county had decided to
build their new Loveland offices there instead.

The "
South Catalyst Project" is proposed to be north of E 1st St. going just beyond E 3rd St. while
encompassing everything between Cleveland and Lincoln in downtown.  The project originally
promised 200 apartments, a movie theater, restaurants, retail and most importantly a 44,000 square ft.
Larimer County building.   The county's participation gave city officials the ability to claim there was a
governmental purpose to their property acquisitions for the project thus
threatening eminent domain
against property owners unwilling to sell their commercial properties to the city.  The owner of an
historic downtown gas station, Gene Stires,
fought the city longer than most before eventually
capitulating and selling his property at 123 N. Lincoln which now sits vacant.

At the same time, the Loveland City Council began hearing complaints from staff and downtown
businesses and residents about the county's plans.  One primary concern was the fact Larimer County
pays no property taxes (which benefit the downtown URA [urban redevelopment authority]) nor any
sales taxes of which the Loveland City Council returns half to projects for downtown each year.  
However, another complaint that received the most traction was that of creating a catalyst for crime but
the conversation was kept largely private.

During one Loveland City Council closed door meeting in early 2015, they discussed at length the
potentially dangerous felons who would be frequenting the South Catalyst Project should the county
include a massive
probation and mental health offices into the project.  It was decided that the
politically sensitive issue could be avoided in public by focusing on tax questions and by forcing the
county's hand to pay for a parking garage (which the county already refused to do) to gain leverage in
the negotiation to keep out such services.

Did Voters Approve a 'Crime Catalyst' for Downtown Loveland?

Larimer County sought permission from voters in 2013 to use $12 million already approved for a
previous project to relocate (or remodel) their existing county building in downtown Loveland to a new
location within Loveland.  (see
ballot language in right column).  

Many Loveland residents are frustrated with the current lack of parking and crowded space in the
county's building at 205 E. 6th Street in Loveland.  The 21,000 foot structure began life in 1968 as
Loveland's city library before being acquired by the county in 1988.  Most Loveland residents who
supported the ballot measure likely thought a new building could improve their access for vehicle
registration services and possibly reduce the wait time.

Not widely discussed at the time of the ballot measure was the inclusion of a probation office and AIIM

(Alternatives to Incarceration for
Individuals with Mental Health needs).  According to an email by
Larimer County Commissioner Steve Johnson last year, these services occupy approximately 3,000
square feet in the Loveland Police and Courts building but plan 10,000 square ft. in the new downtown
building "
to meet future demands."  The probation services are run by the Colorado Judicial
Department and will include all types of released criminals travelling into downtown Loveland to
check-in with their probation officers.

Colorado Recidivism Rates - Highest in the Nation

According to the U.S Justice Department, Colorado's recidivism rate was among the highest in the nation
at over 50% in 2010 while most states see repeat offenses at a rate of only 30%.  In 2013, a Colorado
Department of Corrections study showed the average repeat
offense occurred within eight months of an
inmate being placed on parole.  Drug users commonly commit what are called "smash and grabs" when
desperate for money to buy drugs while violent sex offenders can act upon what law enforcement call
"targets of opportunity."  Many offenders on probation have prior criminal histories for which they
served time but are placed on probation for subsequent "non serious" crimes.

Jacki Marsh, who lives above the business she runs on 4th street in a building she bought and
renovated, would be living within two blocks of the county's new building in downtown.  She told
"I am a sitting duck because we are open late and anyone can walk through that
 Originally from San Jose California, Marsh says her father was a defense attorney and she
witnessed first-hand how dangerous some released felons can be in the community.

Marsh contends the probation and AIIM offices would be better located in or near the Loveland Police
and Courts building at 810 E. 10th Street where Larimer County already owns property and has
threatened the city they plan on locating their building if a suitable location is not arranged in
downtown.  In addition, Marsh argues the county's claim they already provide probation services in
downtown isn't entirely accurate.  Marsh says the county used to only process Juvenile offenders in
another small downtown office six blocks away since 2010.

County Building Back In Catalyst Program

In an apparent behind the scenes maneuvering, Loveland and Larimer County have moved beyond last
year's failed negotiations and are back on track for the county building with probation and AIIM offices
to be situated into the city's South Catalyst project.   Despite complaining regularly that the city's
process was taking too long, Larimer County failed to initiate any alternative of their own while the City
of Loveland was seeking another bidder following the departure of their previous developer.

Former McWhinney Vice-President and former county employee, Jay Hardy, joined Brinkman Partners
(firm that developed Gallery Flats in downtown Loveland with city assistance) last year.  Since that
time he has been meeting behind the scenes with both city and county officials to revive the South
Catalyst Project except with a slightly different objective.  When the City of Loveland announced their
selection of Brinkman to develop the South Catalyst Project in late January, Larimer County only a few
days later responded with a detailed RFP (request for proposal) not coincidently asking for qualified
bidders able to exchange a minimum 3.5 acre parcel in downtown Loveland for the county's current
building location and nearby parking lot containing 54 parking spaces.

While several Loveland City Councilmen assured downtown businesses the county will not be allowed
to house probation and mental health services into their facility, the revised February 11, 2016 RFP
(Request For Proposal) states the new county building may include,

"Probation, Alternative Sentencing, AIIM (Alternatives to Incarceration for Individuals with Mental
Health Needs), County Coroner, Facilities and Future expansion for other Larimer County offices or

Due, in part, to Jay Hardy's influence the City of Loveland has dropped many of its prior ambitions for
the South Catalyst Project and is instead subsidizing a much more modest version of their original
proposal.  With the original anchor tenant, Larimer County, the project appears to be moving forward
once again.  The only business previously announced to occupying offices, Constant Contact, is
reportedly laying-off employees so no longer a candidate to occupy the project.

As for Jackie Marsh, she has placed the 4th street building containing her home and retail store on the
market for $950,000 and is planning to move out of downtown.  Marsh commented, "
it will kill us
" in reference to Larimer County's plans to expand probation (early release) and AIIM services
for Larimer County in downtown Loveland which she considers a tipping point towards more crime in
an area already struggling to improve its reputation.  Marsh points to a number of smaller cities she has
studied where parole services are located far outside the downtown area; for a good reasons she states.

While Marsh said many other downtown Loveland businesses, also owned by women, have similar
fears they are unwilling to raise their voices in fear of retaliation by County Commissioner Steve

Commissioner Johnson published offensive comments about Marsh on his Facebook page last year even
encouraging a boycott of her store for opposing the county's re-location of AIIM and probation services
into their new building for the South Catalyst Project.  After 9News reported on the spat Commissioner
Johnson removed his comments that were preserved in the
news report by 9News.

Lawrence Hollier, a probation officer working in an annex of the county's Loveland building since 2010
was sourced for a 2013 article in The Coloradoan that stated,

"Safety is an issue for the state-operated youth probation service office, which has small space in an
addition to the building.......there are no metal detectors at the building's entrances or on-site security
personnel, such as what's available at the Loveland Police and Courts Building, 810 E. 10th St......"

The article quoted Hollier complaining,

"Should an emergency happen, we don't have anyone to contact other than 911...if we were in the
courthouse or law-enforcement setting that would be different."

Because the probation services are run by the State of Colorado (county provides the offices), there
would be no local control on the volume of criminals required to register in Loveland's new South
Catalyst Project's 10,000 square foot parole and mental health services offices.
Ballot Issue 1A Nov. 5, 2013

In 2011 the State of California began releasing
"nonserious" offenders to county jails and releasing them
across the state in compliance with Assembly Bill 109
seeking to reduce prison populations.   In addition, an
early release program allows criminals to avoid serving jail
time by remaining on probation under adult supervision.

Like California, Larimer County has also implemented an
early release program and alternative sentencing program
(ASD) along with AIIM.

Redding, a city in Northern California slightly larger than
Loveland at just over 90,000 residents, received money
from the State of California to supervise criminals on
probation in their community which is the county seat.

Four years later, residents now say their city mascot is
tattooed felons on kid bikes as the downtown area has
become a dangerous area full of crime.

Read blog documenting Redding crime wave
(warning site has vulgar language)

Donni Chamberlain Editorial